Satellite telecoms company Lynk Global will launch the world’s first base station in space to transmit 5G cellular connectivity to standard smartphones on Earth.
The test will take place in December 2022 and will be carried out using Lynk’s second commercial satellite. The endeavour has received funding from an undisclosed partner.
The company recently received the first satellite-direct-to-phone commercial licence from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
It has also secured a patent on the ability to connect to existing standard 5G devices on Earth in 55 countries.
Lynk chief commercial officer Dan Dooley said the company was “years ahead” of everyone else in allowing mobile network operators to extend their cellular networks to 100% of their geographic territories.
“We are actively testing satellite-direct-to-phone-services in 12 countries on five continents,” Dooley said. “We will be years ahead in 5G as well.”
“Recent events have only accelerated Lynk’s progress not only technically as well as commercially with MNO partners.”
The “recent events” that Dooley referred to might be Lynk rival Starlink starting to offer cellular connectivity to T-Mobile subscribers in the US next year.
However, Starlink is yet to receive approval from the FCC to offer this service.
Meanwhile, Lynk’s satellite-to-phone service was already successfully tested across 6,000 devices in five countries last year.
Ironically, the company’s first commercial satellite was launched on a rideshare mission by SpaceX, the same company behind Starlink.
Several other satellite and telecoms operators are planning to launch satellite-to-phone connectivity trials in the coming months.
Vodafone has partnered with AST SpaceMobile to use the company’s satellite-based mobile network for engineering trials.
Vodafone’s South Africa-based subsidiary, Vodacom, will be given priority access to test the network in a first phase that includes 49 equatorial countries — including several in Africa.
The mobile network operator told MyBroadband the satellite service would complement Vodacom’s terrestrial network by using radio frequency spectrum that is not fully used in rural areas.